Summary: To accommodate their large international signing class, the Padres fielded two teams in the Arizona League in 2017 – a phenomenon becoming a bit more common across baseball. The AZL Padres finished at 24-31, while the creatively named AZL Padres-2 went 30-25, although win-loss records aren’t very important in the Arizona League.

Between the two squads, each of the Padres’ first eight draft picks, as well as many of the top international signees from the 2016 international signing period, saw time in the AZL.

Level: The Arizona League is the lowest level of the minor leagues in the states. The players at this level are typically young Latin American players, high school draftees and lower profile college picks. Pitchers rarely work deep into games and position players are often

The two AZL teams featured a huge amount of talent and we should see many advance to the Midwest League in the 2018 season.

Arizona League Player of the Year: 2B Esteury Ruiz, .350/.395/.602 (including .300/.364/.475 with AZL Padres).

Ruiz, 19, was acquired in the July trade that sent Brandon Maurer, Trevor Cahill, and Ryan Buchter to Kansas City. Ruiz was in the midst of a remarkable debut season prior to the trade and continued to hit well in the San Diego organization.

In 206 at-bats, Ruiz hit .350/.395/.602, with 34 extra-base hits, including 20 doubles, 10 triples, and three homers. While Padres Twitter got worked up about one second-hand report he had below-average speed, Ruiz showed good raw foot speed in our in-person looks and flashed baserunning instincts on his way to stealing 26 bases.

Arizona League Pitcher of the Year: LHP MacKenzie Gore, 0-1, 1.27 ERA, 21.1 IP, 14 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 7 BB, 34 K.

MacKenzie Gore was one of the most hyped players in the draft and he certainly lived up to the hype in his pro debut. The third overall pick in last June’s draft showed a mid-90’s fastball and three good secondary offerings as he dominated the Arizona League.

Gore allowed only three earned runs all summer, striking out 34 batters in just 21.1 innings. The athletic pitcher with the big league kick also showed a good pickoff move. Gore’s talent and athleticism make him a good bet to start his 2018 season in Fort Wayne; albeit a bit delayed to preserve his innings in his first year.

Four outside the MadFriars 2018 Top 20:

(1) Jeisson Rosario
Position: Centerfield
Height/Weight: 6-1/175
Bats/Throws: L/L
How acquired: Signed as an international free agent on July 2, 2016.

.299  .404  .369    224  33/36  56    11      1

2017 Highlights: Rosario, who turned 18 after the season, was praised for his smooth left-handed stroke when the Padres’ signed him in 2016, and his pro debut backed that up. Rosario hit .299/.404/.369, finishing in the top-ten in both walks and on-base percentage. His 16% strikeout rate showed that he has a good approach at the plate and that he is capable of making solid contact. In both July and August, Rosario walked more than he struck out.

Negatives: There were some questions about attitude and work ethic last summer, although that could be chalked up to youth. While Rosario has outstanding bat-to-ball skills, he only slugged .369 with one homer in 220 trips to the plate. He does have a frame that could support significantly more muscle mass.

Projections: Rosario played exclusively in center in the Arizona League, but there was a gap between his raw speed and his ability to use it consistently in games. Although he looked more than capable of handling center in the Padres On Deck Game, he may be better suited for a corner. He is in the mix to skip a level and open 2018 in Fort Wayne.

MadFriars’ Assessment: Rosario’s approach at the plate is beyond his years and his on-base ability should lead to him being a top-of-the-order threat. He could be a guy who can add a few pounds as he grows and eventually hit for power. Rosario has the tools to be an above-average defensive outfielder capable of anchoring the top of the lineup.

(2)  Luis Campusano
Position: Catcher
Height/Weight: 6-0/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Drafted in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft (39th overall).

.269 .344 .388  134  15/25  36    8       4

2017 Highlights: Campusano had a nice debut in the AZL, showing pop and a keen eye at the plate and better defensive tools than most predicted. He hit .329/.367/.425 against right-handed pitching and homered in consecutive games in June. His walk rate was over 10% and had a sub-20% strikeout rate.

Negatives: While Campusano made strides behind the plate, in terms of receiving, Campusano threw out only 14% of base-stealers.

Projection: Campusano was considered one of the best catchers in last year’s draft and his pro debut showed that he has offensive potential. He has plus-power and has a chance to be an above-average hitter.

MadFriars’ Assessment: Campusano might have the most upside of any backstop in the organization. He made contact at a solid clip with some power. He should be in the mix for the catcher position in Fort Wayne in 2018.

(3) Tirso Ornelas
Position: Outfield
Height/Weight: 6-4/180
Age: 17
Bats/Throws: L/R
How Acquired: Signed as an international free agent on July 2, 2016.

.276  .399   .408   238  40/61  54    17      3

2017 Highlights: Ornelas, the teenager from Tijuana, had an outstanding pro debut flashing power and a sweet stroke from the left side. Ornelas, 17, had a wRC of 127 while walking in nearly 17% of his plate appearances. His 40 walks placed him second in the league and he had 17 extra-base hits.
Negatives: While it is exciting to see a 17-year-old put up big numbers, he did strike out in more than a quarter of his at-bats. While his athleticism has been better than advertised, he could ultimately grow out of a defensive position if his body gets away from him.
Projection: Ornelas has a strong approach at the plate with plenty of raw power already in there. After showing good mechanics and solid athleticism in the outfield in his pro debut, he has made a case that he’ll be able to remain in the grass.
MadFriars’ Assessment: Ornelas is still quite young – he just turned 18 during spring training – but still might log most of his time in Fort Wayne in 2018. He is a guy who could easily climb into the top-20 this season.

(4) Luis Patino
Position: RHP/Starting Pitcher
Height/Weight: 6-0/150
Age: 18
Bats/Throws: R/R
How Acquired: Signed as an international free agent on July 2, 2016.

W-L ERA  G GS  IP H    R  ER BB  K   AVG
2-1   2.48   9   8   40  32 14  11  16   43 .213

2017 Highlights: While he didn’t join those who came to Peoria for instructs in 2016 and stayed behind in the Dominican for spring training last year, his performance earned an early-season promotion from the DSL. The slender Colombian continued to pitch well in his stateside debut and had a stretch of six consecutive starts when he allowed one run or less. He was the most consistent starter in the AZL, pitching to a solid 2.48 ERA.
Negatives: Patino is slender and his frame doesn’t seem to allow much physical projection, perhaps limiting his upside.
Projection: Patino is far away from establishing himself as a top prospect in the system, but he has a mid-90’s fastball and a lively slider. If he can fill out a little and develop a consistent third pitch, he could climb the prospect ladder next year.
MadFriars’ Assessment: Patino is still very young and was a relatively unheralded part of the July 2016 international class. He should start the season playing for Tri-City this summer.

Up Next: We take a look at the Padres’ team in the short-season Northwest League, the Tri-Cities Dust Devils.

Posted by Kevin Charity

Kevin Charity has written for MadFriars since 2015 and has had work featured on Fox Sports San Diego. He is a lifelong San Diego native and is looking forward to seeing the current wave of prospects thrive in San Diego.

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